The $5 Computer

The mobile phone has made it possible for most people to carry a computer on them all the time. You can buy an unlocked Moto E at Amazon for $99. That’s pretty amazing. A powerful mobile computer for less than $100.

But what is more amazing is a computer for $5. That’s what The Raspberry Pi Foundation announced a week ago:

If you watch that 2 1/2 minute video, you will see that they gave away 10,000 of these Raspberry Pi Zero computers on the cover of the December issue of their magazine. Giving away 10,000 computers seems expensive, but not when the cost is $5.

My colleague Joel showed me a chart last week of the most called resources in GitHub and right there at the top of his list was Raspberry Pi. These cheap computers are finding their way into all sorts of applications these days. Many of these use cases are hobbyists building stuff for their own use or just hacking around. But what Chris Dixon said a few years ago comes to mind

Raspberry Pi also powers two of the more interesting new computers to hit the market this year:

  • The 21 Bitcoin Computer which comes will the entire blockchain in its 128 GB SD card and a dedicated Bitcoin mining chip
  • The Kano computer kit which allows kids to build their own computer and program it

Buy your child the Kano this year and the 21 Computer next year when they are ready for something more. You will be doing them a huge favor as they will be figuring stuff out that will change the world in the coming years.

I am not sure if there is anything more heartening to me than the rise of the nearly free general purpose computer. I’ve been worried that general purpose computing was on the decline as we move to locked down devices with limits on what you can do with them. Raspberry Pi is the counterweight to that trend and such an important force for good things in the world of computing.